Letters to the Editor

Vulnerable pupils will fall through cracks in new ‘super school'

I write in relation to the article by Simon Doyle (May 14) regarding the amalgamation of four schools in the Downpatrick area (St Mary’s High School, De La Salle College, St  Patrick’s Grammar and St Columba’s High School, Portaferry) deemed ‘the right thing to do’.

The ‘right thing’ for whom? Certainly not for any of the young people in the area. Which parent would choose to send their child to a school of 1,600/1,700 students, the second largest school on the island of Ireland, split over three sites, for an indefinable period of time?

As head of pastoral care in St  Patrick’s Grammar School, I am confident that our students currently enjoy excellent safeguarding, child protection and pastoral care, as do students in the three other schools. The creation of this new so-called ‘super school’ would have a very great impact on the safe-guarding and well-being of all our young people. I fear that in their drive to dismantle grammar schools, some are willing to gamble with our young people’s safety and well being.

All the research demonstrates smaller schools (those up to 900 students) are best suited to meeting the needs of young people as individuals – Cotton [1996], Weaver [2000], Wasley [2000], Churchill & Carrington [2001], Cobbold [2006]; Leithwood & Jantzi [2009].
In smaller schools teachers and students and teachers and parents can get to know each other and bonds of trust and care are formed which support the young person as they grow and develop. All young people benefit from being known by their teachers and in particular those with statements of special educational needs. My very real fear is that those children who are most vulnerable will inevitably ‘fall through the cracks’ in this proposed new ‘super school’.

At a time when mental health concerns and suicide rates in Northern Ireland have reached staggeringly high figures, when the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) is stretched, leaving schools’ pastoral teams to support young people while they wait months for appointments, I cannot believe that those involved in education, who should be concerned about the well-being of young people, would be so foolhardy as to make their ‘preferred option’ an amalgam of 1,600/1,700 students, spread over several sites.

Anonymity and separation are inevitable components of life in large institutions, are the enemy of students’ safety and wellbeing and the reason why an amalgamation of four schools, over three sites, for an unknown time period is wrong for our children.
Which primary school principal could, in good conscience, recommend such a school to parents of children they have nurtured in their much, much smaller schools?
I ask all involved in this proposal to give due consideration
to making a change that will provide all our children with what they have the right to expect – robust safeguarding and excellence in pastoral care.
In other words, an option labelled ‘Option B’ by those who are trying to enforce this amalgamation and to which they have apparently given little consideration.

St Patricks Grammar School


Double standards over coverage of Israeli war is appalling

The coverage and double standards of the Israeli war crimes in Gaza by  western media outlets has been appalling, none more so than the BBC.  
On Newsnight several minutes was given to an Israeli spokesperson to justify such barbarism and put out propaganda against the Palestinians without any such redress or Palestinian input. The BBC followed up its news coverage with a report of Israeli Eli Avivi who died a natural death and the great life he had taking part in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian villages in 1948 and the subsequent occupation of one such village by his wife and himself. The bombing by Israeli aircraft the same day did make the same news. If terrorists had killed 60 people what a difference a BBC report would make. We would have each individual personal history. Recently one English newspaper congratulated itself on its investigation and condemnation of the murder of journalists around the world. Guess what? It took several readers’ letters to remind them that several were killed by Israelis and 119 injured
The New York Times told us 60 ‘died’ in Gaza as if by natural causes, while the BBC continued weeks of ‘anti-Semitism’ of Ken Livingstone’s factual and historical remark. Those who shouted the loudest about ant-Semitism have remained quiet as it seems their humanity does not extend beyond their own interest group.
Since the massacre BBC has had several Israeli interest programmes  on Radio 4  and TV, even on Woman’s Hour. Strange how Panorama and  other programmes have not investigated  how sections of British Zionists support this brutal Israeli government, financially and in military service including illegal settlement.
These are the things they will not tell us but will continue to preach anti-Semitism lectures to anyone who criticises Israel, while ignoring the fact that ‘semitic’ Palestinians are slaughtered. 

Belfast BT11


Reformation was absolute disaster

Over the past few weeks I have followed with interest the joust between the Rev Peter McIntyre and Fr Patrick McCafferty.

This followed the former’s assertion of the old Chestnut that because of the Mass and belief in the real presence in the Eucharist Protestants should not attend Requiem Mass or any Mass. Translating the wafer into Christ is an assault on the gospel. Do we not owe it to Christ to separate from such evils?

I would refer the Rev McIntyre to article 10, Augsburg Confession of Faith 1530 which states that: Lutherans believe that Christ’s body and blood is truly present in the bread and wine of the sacrament and reject others who teach otherwise.

Both gentlemen in support of their argument frequently made reference to the Gospel of John. However, neither protagonist referred to John 17, which tells us that on the night of His arrest Christ prayed to the father for unity among His apostles and their followers.

An internet search as to how many Protestant religions and sects in the world tells us that they number in the thousands. This fragmentation of the Christian message is not what Christ had in mind when he prayed to the father for unit, John 17.

In my view Luther’s so-called reformation for Western civilisation has been an unmitigated disaster. It has given us 500 years sectarian hatred and millions of lives lost.

Newcastle, Co Down


Worrying if poll figure had any credibility


A recent poll suggesting that support for a united Ireland in the six counties is just over 21 per cent is at variance with another poll carried out in December that suggested that a majority of people living here would vote for a united Ireland. It would be worrying if this figure had any credibility because it would suggest that support for a united Ireland has actually decreased since before the GFA. One suggestion by the poll that did strike a chord with me was that less than 10 per cent of people believe that Sinn Féin is doing a good job of representing them.

Probably the most shocking statement made on the day the results of the poll were announced was the comment that Arlene Foster made suggesting that nationalism was narrow and exclusive while unionism was inclusive and willing to embrace diversity. Many see the seeds of the conflict we were all subjected to as lying in the previous 50 years of unionist hegemony and misrule and complete intolerance to demands for civil rights.  Nor is this a thing of the past. You only have to look at traditional unionist heartlands that promote Zionism to the exclusion of the rights of others.

Belfast BT11

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Letters to the Editor